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News » Spurs feel OK after fluky loss to Celtics

Spurs feel OK after fluky loss to Celtics

Spurs feel OK after fluky loss to Celtics After amassing a five-game win streak against teams that fall short of NBA elite status, the Spurs went into their Thursday night game against the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics seeking an answer to an important question: Where do we stand in the NBA power structure?

Eighteen turnovers, 10 missed free throws and 14 missed 3-pointers later, they await tonight's game at the AT&T Center against the Denver Nuggets still wondering.

"I don't think we answered many questions, in that respect of figuring out where we're at," Spurs captain Tim Duncan said.

Despite lacking offensive precision, the Spurs stayed in Thursday's game with defensive effort. Anything but season-worst free-throw and 3-point shooting might have produced a quality win.

"That (Celtics) team only scored 90 points on them, and we had to foul several times down the stretch," Popovich said. "I thought the defensive effort was fantastic. They stuck together and communicated.

"We had our worst night of the year at the line and our worst night of the year from the 3-point line. That's something you don't control. It either is or it isn't. But the things we can control, the things you can try to improve in, I think we did a hell of a job. I would expect them to come out with the same effort and awareness against Denver."

The Nuggets arrived in San Antonio on Friday night with a 14-5 record that ranks them just behind the Lakers in the Western Conference. Forward Carmelo Anthony leads the league in scoring, at 30.2 points per game, as the centerpiece of an offense that is the league's most productive thus far, producing 110.8 points per game.

The Nuggets already have beaten the Lakers, and have five road victories in nine tries.

"It's a great game for us against a very good team, and coming at the right time," Duncan said. "The (Boston) game was disappointing, obviously, and we'll continue to try to gauge ourselves against everybody, so we want to play the good teams. This is a good stretch for us to figure it out."

Popovich used nine different lineups in Thursday's game, still searching for the right combinations with a roster full of players brand new to his systems and schemes.

The tinkering isn't going to end any time soon.

"It takes a while to figure out who I want to play, what the roles are going to be, what mix is going to be on the court at certain times in the game, what my best combinations are, and all that," he said. "That will take me 30 or 40 games to figure out."

Popovich said his decision to sit Manu Ginobili for all but three seconds of the fourth quarter of Thursday's game was a combination of limiting the minutes of a player coming off an injury and a game decision.

"We just chose to go with other people," he said. "You usually make decisions about who is on the court, but with Manu, one of the factors at this point is always making sure we don't overplay him when he's coming back from injury.

"It takes a little bit longer to come back from injury than people realize because it's such a dynamic game. You can, even though you're getting better, still tweak something and have a little setback and not be injured and hold you back for a while."

Popovich agreed with Celtics coach Doc Rivers that Ginobili is apt to experience some inconsistency as he recovers from the stress fracture of his right ankle that required a summer of convalescence, just as Boston's Kevin Garnett has been up and down after a knee operation late last season.

"With people like Garnett for the Celtics, or Ginobili for us, we know those are the kind of guys we have to have at the end of the year, so that tends to make you a little bit conservative with their minutes to make sure they're going to be available, and you don't do anything to miss more games with them."

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Added: December 8, 2009


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